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A meet against Cal State Fullerton is a chance for UCLA gymnastics to end on a high note going into the postseason

By Mansi Sheth

March 10, 2011 2:41 pm

Competing against Cal State Fullerton brings back fond memories for the UCLA gymnastics team.

Ask any returning gymnast and she will tell you the meet against the Titans was last year’s turning point. When the team scored a 197.25 without the help of many starters, the Bruins knew they could win the national championship.

Heading into Sunday’s meet, No. 8 UCLA is looking for similar inspiration when they face Fullerton to close the regular season.

After a disappointing loss at home against No. 7 Georgia last weekend, a dominant performance against the winless Titans would generate some much-needed momentum for the lackluster Bruins before the postseason begins.

“Right now it is very important for our confidence to win,” sophomore Lichelle Wong said. “It is really frustrating to go into a meet knowing that you are able to win it but not actually being able to follow through. We need to perform well this time.”

Statistically, a victory against Fullerton seems all but guaranteed for UCLA. The Titans’ season high score of 190.700 is over three points lower than the Bruins’ season low of 194.475. No Fullerton gymnast has earned above a 9.875 this year whereas a Bruin has scored at least a 9.9 in all but one meet.

But with the Pac-10 and NCAA Championships fast approaching, UCLA cannot be willing to settle for an uninspiring win. If they want to boost their regional qualifying score (RQS) and secure a favorable seed for nationals, the team must score high, preferably above a 197.

If the Bruins want to exceed their season high mark of 197.475, they cannot afford to count a fall on Sunday.

“We need to start being the team we know we can be,” coach Valorie Kondos Field said. “I mean, we have had nine meets and we have hit (all our routines) once. That’s not good. I expect them to come out and compete lights-out.”

Kondos Field believes the team has been unable to reach its potential because her gymnasts are so concentrated on preventing mistakes that they have forgotten how to relax.

“They need to bring their personalities and character to their athleticism, because right now they are playing tight,” she said.

“When you grow up in the gymnastics world, you are not encouraged to show emotion during competitions. I am noticing that the girls who had the most success before they came to college, they go into a shell as soon as one little thing happens. That is what is preventing them from being their best.”

Injured gymnasts return

After battling a cold for the past few weeks, Wong is expected to return on floor exercise for the Bruins. Sophomore Monique De La Torre, who did not compete against Georgia and Arizona, will also be back in the lineup for uneven bars Sunday. De La Torre hurt both ankles while performing her floor routine during a home meet on Feb. 27.

“I have been an alternate for the past three weeks now, and even though you have to do it for the team, it’s really annoying to warm up and then not get to do the fun stuff,” Wong said. “So I’m really excited to compete.”

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Mansi Sheth
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